More than 100 veterans received commemorative pins on March 29 in honor of the 50th Vietnam War Commemoration and 5th Annual Vietnam War Veterans Day.
“It is my honor to meet some of our Vietnam War veterans today and more importantly to recognize, honor and remember their courage, sacrifice and service,” said Maj. Gen. Douglas Stitt, Director of Military Personnel Management, Army G-1. “These great Veterans leave a legacy of selfless service, honor and duty for all generations of our Army to honor and remember and I am proud to follow in their example.”
The commemoration, held at Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in southern Maryland, also honored the more than 1,600 U.S. military and civilian personnel who are still unaccounted for; the Soldiers were considered POW/MIA.
On March 28, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation in which he reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the war. The original commitment to the commemoration began May 28, 2012, and is scheduled to continue through November 11, 2025.
Veterans of the war often hid their military service from the public, Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Hal Fritz recently said. He added that many Americans at the time were against the war and didn’t revere veterans the way they are honored today. Veterans who received the pins on March 29 said they felt honored.
“This is an honor for me and many of the Soldiers who’re in this facility because a lot of time we don’t get recognition,” said Willy Gray, who was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division during the Vietnam War and part of the Tet Offensive. “The morale of the place went up when [the Soldiers] came in, it says a lot. When [Soldiers] present a ‘thank you’ for what we did, that goes a long way, especially for us as we get older.”
The pins, which are blue and gold, round and adorned with a bald eagle and the words Vietnam War Veteran, were created for dignified events to present to service members who served between Nov. 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, according to the Vietnam War 50th Anniversary website.
“Our Vietnam veterans come from all across our country with different backgrounds and beliefs as ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things for our nation,” said Sgt. Maj. Kenyatta Gaskins, enlisted advisor for Military Personnel Management, Army G-1. “Their legacy, although not acknowledged at the time, had lasting positive impacts on our communities, our country, and our Soldiers. As we pause this year to commemorate the Vietnam War, it’s important to thank our veterans and give them the recognition for their service that was taken from them in the past.”
The U.S. presence in Vietnam, which started as giving aid to the anti-communists in the south, grew to more than 23,000 service members by the end of 1964, 15,000 of which were U.S. Soldiers. At first, U.S. troops were stationed in defensive positions in important cities, like Saigon. By 1966, more than 240,000 Soldiers were on ground in Vietnam. In 1969, President Richard Nixon began the phased withdrawal of service members from Vietnam. The Army’s role in Vietnam officially ended on March 29, 1973.
More than 58,000 service members lost their lives in Vietnam, and over 300,000 were wounded during the war.
Today, Vietnam veterans, some of whom are in their late 70s, need special care from medical professionals. Facilities like Charlotte Hall help provide that needed care for veterans.
The veterans’ home, which opened in 1985, is an assisted living facility that can accommodate more than 100 veterans. The facility provides skilled nurses for long-term care for Maryland Veterans and eligible spouses.